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Best Factory Offroad Vehicles 2013-2015

One question often asked by dirt, sand, and mud lovers is which vehicle is the best offroader. This becomes especially stringent when the question is about which one is best right off the showroom floor, without modification.

Offroad capability is a mixed bag of abilities and hardware. A “trail-ready” Jeep, for example, may not be so awesome when the trail is a dirt track and the driver wants to rally race. Similarly, a rally-ready Subaru WRX STi may be awesome on the dirt track, but if there are rocks, mud, or streams to ford, it can get stuck.

For our list, we are considering vehicles that are capable of all types of general offroad capability. They can run a trail, bounce off some rocks, slough through some mud, and ford a small river… all in the same trip on the same day. These are the all-around best offroad machines. They may not be great at any one task out in the field, but they’re capable of doing nearly all off-pavement tasks to some degree of success.

We rank them here by capability rating in three categories:

  1. Dirt road/trail,
  2. Light and medium mud (up to 4 inches), and
  3. Rock/hill climbing (a combination of clearance and power delivery) in moderate circumstances.

We rate them 1-5 with five being the best at that category and then overall with the average score in total.

2013-2015 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (Total Score: 4.67)
Dirt Road/Trail Score: 4
Mud Score: 5
Rock/Hill Climb Score: 5

 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

The standard Wrangler is already a formidable opponent to many sport utilities in the offroad arena, but the Rubicon model, with its trail mastering capabilities, is beyond awesome. It features a solid front axle, locking differentials (front and rear), and a sway bar disconnect that gives it huge amounts of articulation to keep the rubber on the ground. The 3.6L V6 offers good power and performance as well.

2013-2014 Mercedes-Benz G-Class (Total Score: 4.67)
Dirt Road/Trail Score: 4
Mud Score: 5
Rock/Hill Climb Score: 5

Mercedes_Benz-G_Clas

As one of the most expensive factory offroad vehicles you can buy, the Merc G-Class is based on military vehicles the company produces in Europe. It features many capabilities that aren’t readily apparent at first glance. With three locking differentials, a full-time four-wheel drive system with low-range gearing, and some of the best departure and approach angles you will find in a production vehicle, the luxurious G-Class is the most capable offroad machine on our list.

2013-2014 Ram 2500 Power Wagon (Total Score: 4.34)
Dirt Road/Trail Score: 4
Mud Score: 5
Rock/Hill Climb Score: 4

RM014_101TF

The Power Wagon is similar to the Raptor in its focus as a derivative of a popular pickup truck. The Power Wagon is a Ram 2500 three-quarter ton pickup truck outfitted to be excellent off the road. A reinforced four-wheel drive system, factory-installed winch, skid plates, beefier tires, and disconnecting front swaybar all make this an offroad monster. The big Hemi V8 is the right size for the job as well.

2013-2014 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor (Total Score: 4)
Dirt Road/Trail Score: 5
Mud Score: 4
Rock/Hill Climb Score: 3

2012 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

The Raptor is purpose-built for desert racing (ala Baja) with a suspension system and powertrain to match that goal. Its main capabilities are on the trail and through the mud. In rock and hill climbing, it is adequate, but not on par with other vehicles on our list which have better ground clearance and articulation. Its massive V8 engine, locking rear differential, and very well-built suspension system are all high marks for the Raptor.

2013-2014 Land Rover LR4 (Total Score: 4)
Dirt Road/Trail Score: 4
Mud Score: 4
Rock/Hill Climb Score: 4

Land Rover

The Rover’s primary strength is in its adjustable suspension system and powerful V8 engine. The Terrain Response feature in the LR4 gives it automated or driver-tuned adjustment for various on- and off-road conditions with its beautifully-done air suspension adjusting to match needs. Being a very capable luxury SUV, the Land Rover is expensive, of course, but also very comfortable.

2013-2015 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X (Total Score: 4)
Dirt Road/Trail Score: 3
Mud Score: 4
Rock/Hill Climb Score: 4

2013NissanFrontierPro4X-muddyleftfront-closeup-AOA800px

This is Nissan’s midsized pickup truck and it’s one of the most popular offroad vehicles being purchased today with most buyers in the Pro-4X packaging planning to get it dirty regularly. The Frontier is moderately priced, well-equipped, and enjoys a reputation for its durability and capability. The Pro-4X package includes all of the basics required for a good offroader, including a front skid plate, trail-ready tires, four-wheel drive, Bilstein shocks, and a locking rear differential. Clearance is good and engine power delivery, especially with the V6 option, is also good. Its primary weakness is in its generally high center of gravity, which limits its speed on trails and rally courses.

2013-2015 Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition (Total Score: 4)
Dirt Road/Trail Score: 3
Mud Score: 4
Rock/Hill Climb Score: 5

2014 Toyota 4Runner Trail - rocks - AOA1200px

In most respects, the 4Runner Trail is very much the Land Cruiser without the luxury fittings. It has a higher center of gravity, making it less capable at speeds, but a higher ground clearance to give better mud scores. The 4Runner Trail features the wonderful KDSS unlocking swaybar for huge amounts of tire reach when it’s needed.

2013-2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser (Total Score: 4)
Dirt Road/Trail Score: 3
Mud Score: 4
Rock/Hill Climb Score: 4

2014_Toyota_FJ_Ult_002

The FJ Cruiser was discontinued after the 2014 model year, largely due to low sales volume thanks to the vehicle’s polarizing retro look. Despite this, however, is lives up to its FJ Cruiser name as one of the most ready-made offroad machines that can be purchased from the dealership as-is. Its electronic locking rear differential, Bilstein shocks as standard, all-terrain tires, and rugged traction control system are highlights. The 4.0L V6 is standard equipment and delivers a good amount of power for the size of this SUV. The FJ suffers from a relatively high center of gravity, however, making it difficult to maneuver at speed on dirt roads.

2013-2015 Toyota Land Cruiser (Total Score: 4)
Dirt Road/Trail Score: 4
Mud Score: 3
Rock/Hill Climb Score: 5

2013_Toyota_Land_Cruiser_007

The Land Cruiser is well known for its capabilities in desert sand and harsh climates. It’s a tried-and-true powerhouse with a solid capability both at speeds and when sloughing through mud and rivers. The current-generation Cruiser, however, has a tougher time in mud without specialized tires, but is otherwise one of the best rock climbers and trail runners you can find. Its large V8 engine and Off-Road Turn feature make for some great handling characteristics in many situations.

2013-2015 Nissan Xterra Pro-4X (Total Score: 3.34)
Dirt Road/Trail Score: 2
Mud Score: 4
Rock/Hill Climb Score: 4

IMG_9691

The sport utility version of the Nissan Frontier pickup truck, the Xterra offers the same powertrain and offroad amenities as the Frontier does, as the two share most components in that regard. The higher center of gravity from the SUV body, however, make the Xterra less stable at speed.

2013-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee (Total Score: 3)
Dirt Road/Trail Score: 3
Mud Score: 3
Rock/Hill Climb Score: 3

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Although often cited as the best Jeep has to offer outside of the Wrangler, the Grand Cherokee has several shortcomings due to its more family-friendly, road-ready design to accommodate the majority of SUV buyers today, who have little interest in offroad capability. Its limited ground clearance, due to fascia and bumper designs, and high center of gravity make it less offroad capable than most of the others on our list. Still, it remains a popular choice for buyers who want the Jeep credibility but need family ergonomics to go with that.

3 thoughts on “Best Factory Offroad Vehicles 2013-2015”

  1. My guess is that you rated these without actually testing any of them. To say that a Ram or an FJ Cruiser has the same off road capability as a Land Rover LR4 is just foolish.

    1. Brody, the LR4 is decent, but it lacks too much off-road. But of course the LR fanboys think its unbeatable… 😉

    2. The Power Wagon has front and rear elockers, and electronic swaybar disconnect. 14.7″ of ground clearance, 4.10 gearing and the list goes on. It’s not as compact but definately more capable.

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